Gaga over Wawa...
Happy enough to start a MySpace group with 5,000 members boasting "I Love Wawa"--and that's the largest of several Wawa-related groups on the site. Over the moon enough to manage a group called "We Love Wawa" over at LiveJournal with 950 members...that even cites an "Open Prayer to the God of Wawa". Now whose brand among us couldn't use a few prayers?
For those who've never heard of Wawa, it's not a cool coffee house, or trendy eatery. It's a chain of convenience stores. About 550 of them on the East Coast. If you're thinking coffee, hoagies, carbs and fountain drinks, you're thinking right. Their secret sauce? Service. While many of the postings at the fan sites praise this item or that, the tie that binds is good, solid service. Consistently good.
Sure, there's a lot of cult brands out there. That's nothing new. People attest to Hello Kitty's magical powers, Apple's killer products, In-n-Out's tasty burgers, even New Balance's width-friendly running shoes. But lovin' a convenience store full of commodities? That is new.
Which begs the question...why is customer service so hard to deliver, and deliver consistently?
Folks, we've got a crisis on our hands. We've by and largely lost touch--or completely ignored--customer service. Paul Gillin's recent piece states, "Many organizations today unfortunately have quietly forgone the one element that keeps a steady stream of business flowing: catering to the needs of the customer." Rob Walker's article on Wawa (that inspired this piece, pw req) counsels, "What's intriguing about a brand built partly on its service reputation is that the hottest consumer trend in America right now is arguably dissatisfaction with service." Yikes!
Decent customer service shouldn't be a differentiator. It should, well, just be. To the smart marketers that are using it as a differentiator, I tip my hat to you. For others, I can't help but wonder if our oh-so-strategic, grandiose plans have steered us off course from minding this most basic, and arguably most important, detail.
In fact, I'll admit I've been guilty of not paying nearly enough attention to it. I know that more than a few customer-service audits (not just customer research studies) are ahead of me--and will now be standard in my methodology. I sure would love to see some of my clients with a few fan sites dedicated to them (prayers welcome, too).